I'm blessed and privileged to be a teacher. The longer I do it, the more I appreciate it. But Andrew Cuomo has not the remotest notion of why that is.
To listen to him, you'd think I was sitting around some work site in a lawn chair with Tony Soprano. Actually, I work in a classroom for the first time in twelve years, and that's only because my supervisor kicked me out of a trailer. I happen to know she did this only to protect a classroom she won in a never-ending building-wide turf war. I entertain no fantasies of luxury or getting rich from this job.
What keeps me going is the faces of kids, kids who come from every corner of the world. Every week they come to my classroom and I try to share the language I love with them. One of my former students is now working in our school as a math teacher. She'll probably be my boss one day. I'm immensely proud of her, and she is the reason I am an activist.
My students are not rich. Some of them have parents who work endless hours in restaurants, small businesses, or delivering newspapers at 4 AM. One of my students told me her father was a doctor in South America, but was working here parking cars. He's here chasing the American dream, sacrificing everything for a better life for his children.
My students can certainly park cars or work 200 hours a week for minimum wage, but that's not why their parents brought them here. Two exits up the LIE from our school is Queens College, and my students can scrimp, save, borrow and go there. After that, they can do what I do, and hopefully move out of an underclass and into a middle class.
Governor Cuomo says he's concerned about the kids. He says that education is not a teacher employment program. In fact, he wants to fire us over test scores. Studies show that teachers account for about 1-14 percent of variation in test scores. They further show that the best predictor of college success is not, in fact, test scores, but rather teacher grades.
Despite that, the governor doesn't trust us. We're not allowed to grade Regents exams of our students because some evil teacher might find a way to pass a kid who scored 64 on the Trig exam, and that would be the end of western civilization. He doesn't trust our supervisors either. Apparently too many of them like too many of us, so he wants people from outside, or from SUNY, or from some galaxy far, far away to pass judgment on us.
Actually, my supervisor knows me a lot better than whatever outside observer Governor Cuomo picks. And I know my kids better than some teacher in another school. Are we prejudiced? Of course we are, and of course I want the best for my students. I'm sure their parents do as well. Should we, following Governor Cuomo's example, take kids away from their parents and place them with people who are more objective?
The governor's certainly free to talk about how complex education is, and how outraged people would be if they knew what was going on, but well-informed people know his ideas are nonsense, veritable junk science. He can go on and complain about how awful it is that we have pensions, and how terrible it is if we have job security.
It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me personally. I can retire today if I want to (I don't). But when he bemoans our pensions, when he insists we be fired for junk science, when he demands merit pay, something that's been around over a hundred years that's never worked anywhere, he steals opportunities not only from us, but also from our children and my students.
That's why I will go anywhere, do anything, and bring everyone I can along with me to fight Andrew Cuomo and his morally bankrupt agenda.